More and more “regular-Joe working Americans” are on food stamps. [USAToday]


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  1. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    I’m on food stamps, $122/mo., and it only covers about ten days worth of food for me.

  2. Kajj says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: If you don’t mind my asking, what do you do to make up the difference? Discount grocery stores? Walmart? Gardening?

  3. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    @Kajj: To make up the difference I clip coupons, shop at a food co-op, and only buy food that is on sale. Still, the amount that I get in food stamps per month is a joke. I put the difference on my credit card. I really don’t think that anyone on food stamps can survive on $122/mo. unless that person is anorexic.

  4. Tightlines says:


    Sorry, this may seem callow, but if you are qualifying for food stamps, how do you also access the internet and spend time on internet forums?

  5. Archteryx says:

    God, I love the smell of burnt troll in the evening.

    There are free methods of accessing the Internet, there are very low-cost (albeit slow) methods of using the net, and even broadband costs wouldn’t add more then a few more days’ worth of food at today’s prices.

    Besides, it’s moral support, and when you’re that poor, somes moral support is the difference between life and death. So, please FOAD.

  6. krose says:

    When I was still in college last year I spent about $75 a month on groceries. You just have to be willing to eat a lot of pasta, rice and beans. I hardly ate meat at all, and bought cheap, seasonal fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market.

  7. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    @Tightlines: Good question. I use my neighbor’s WiFi connection for free. I am unemployed and on disability. I put my $1500 Macbook on my credit card, along with all of my food purchases. I owe over $6,000 in debt, and a large chunk of that is for food.

  8. lysine says:

    I was wondering that myself. However, the fact that he clips coupons and only buys stuff on sale is what I do as well. 122/mo. If all you buy is 25 lb bags of rice and beef at 1.99/lb. It will last you a while. i.e.

    25lb bag of rice : 30.00
    30lb of beef at 1.99/lb ( Vons has top sirloin on sale ) : 60.00

    That’s a LOT of food for 90 bucks. More than one could eat in a month. If you don’t mind eating rice and about a lb of beef everyday.

    This still leaves 32 dollars for things like onions and garlic, cooking oil, soy sauce. Can you tell I’m Asian yet?

    I’ve been seriously thinking about growing my own garden of aromatics because I waste so much of it. Who uses an entire bunch of cilantro at a time?

  9. Ex_EA_Slave says:

    I was unemployed for 6 months in California. Unfortunately, the amount I received in unemployment put me over the salary limit to receive food stamps. I survived on $1480 a month unemployment (with monthly rent of $1000) for 6 months. I spent about $100 total on groceries for the entire month. I pretty much survived on ramen noodles, spaghetti, and rice. I had to shop at a very low rent bodega grocery and learn Spanish to see what exactly I was buying, but I survived. I also gained 60 pounds from all the starch/carbs. So, you can survive on $122 a month, but you won’t enjoy it.

  10. theblackdog says:

    I knew a number of off-campus college students who were on food stamps because they were not getting money from their parents, and the jobs around the area didn’t pay much above minimum wage.

  11. chewiemeat says:


  12. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @chewiemeat: You stay classy.

  13. burgundyyears says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: Uh, you bought a macbook? And you’re receiving food stamps? Am I missing something here?

  14. merekat says:

    I work for a food providing non-profit. The amount of food stamps a person or family gets depends on their income, assets, number of people in the family, and other factors like shelter expenses.

    The amount of money a person will get in food stamps is based on the Thrifty Food Plan, a plan developed under the Johnson Administration, back when most people bought and cooked most of their meals and food was realtively, well, thrifty.

    The maximum amount of food stamps a person can get boils down to $1 per meal per person per day. So, if you’re single, the federal government thinks you can eat for $21 a week. In my state (Ohio), we find that food stamps tend to last two and a half weeks.

    @ConsumptionJunkie: you can use your food stamps for seeds and plants used for human consumption (tomatoes, peppers, etc.).

  15. spinachdip says:

    @burgundyyears: FWIW, Macbooks do have lower total cost of ownership compared to equivalent Windows-only PCs, but I’m only trying to play devil’s advocate here.

    Also, someone more insightful than I observed that when reporters refer to “regular” people, they mean white folks.

  16. iMe2 says:

    @spinachdip: That’s quite a broad statement that I simply must disagree with. Maybe if you’re looking at the “average” PC user vs the “average” Mac user, but the reason I still buy PCs is the price. Even with the extended warranties it’s cheaper.

  17. spinachdip says:

    @iMe2: Should have clarified – there are consultants and such who do Total Cost of Ownership analysis. In these comparisons, Macs tend to outperform PCs. YMMV, obviously.

  18. Kajj says:

    A person can be employed and still qualify for food stamps. When I was fresh out of school and working a lowly entertainment industry job, I almost certainly would have qualified (I just stole from catering instead).

  19. burgundyyears says:

    @spinachdip: Well, my anecdotal experience at work has been the macbooks are actually pretty fragile as laptops go (the plastics they use in particular seem prone to excessive wear and the slot load drives love to crap out after, oh, about a year or so if you actually use them regularly) but I digress. To spend $1500 you don’t have on a luxury like while also receiving food stamps that seems a little odd to me. A decent used PC good for general use costs a small fraction of that.

  20. spinachdip says:

    @burgundyyears: Right, which is why I qualified my comment with an “FWIW”.

    Not knowing whether this computer was purchased before the commenter lost his job, or he’s looking for a job that requires a mid-range computer, I’m not sure if the Macbook purchase is necessarily questionable.

    But back on topic – I do wonder what will happen to government assistance over the next year or two, if more people qualify for assistance but tax revenue drops.

  21. stinerman says:


    You’re supposed to be buying food high in refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup, which is the cheapest in terms of calories.

    Food stamps doesn’t buy you the healthy stuff anymore.

  22. bmwloco says:

    If I spent more than $120 a month on food, I’d be surprised.

    The garden out back, preserves, farmer’s market and tail gate markets contribute a lot to my body fuel. Shop the bargains on yogurt, eat out little.

    Dunno. 45 years old, work out regularly, work a job I tolerate and every now and then have fun.

    Life is what you make of it.

  23. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I live in a ground-floor city apartment in Houston. The windows are shaded by the balcony of the floor above and face a shaded courtyard, which is great for the A/C bill but means the only thing I can grow here is mold.

    125 dollars a month could buy everything I eat, but I am a vegetarian (OK, I had haggis and boudin on business trips, but you have to at least try the local slop, LOL). My guy and I have a half share in a farm co-op for six hundred dollars every six months, which supplies more than we know what to do with each week. (I had to get a canner and I’m teaching myself how to can.) So fifty dollars a month for the bulk of our food (includes a dozen eggs a week). We make lots of rice “with stuff” but that’s actually the sort of thing we like. I am the soup queen. My guy’s little sister works at Kroger, in the natural food section, and brings us marked-down stuff like soymilk and vegetarian meat substitutes all the time, for which we reimburse her (this accounts for about another 20 a month). I buy herbs and spices in small quantities from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, which helps me keep them fresher on hand and costs far less. We eat biscuits (self rising flour and yogurt, not a biscuit mix) but not bread. We do order some bulk supplies online. Canned tomato products like crushed tomatoes and paste (the dollar-a-can spaghetti sauce is actually pretty good), sunflower oil, and a few cans of garbanzo, kidney, and black beans fill out the rest of the basics.

    I do spend extra on non-basics, but I could get by without them. We waste too much. I don’t clip coupons mostly because they have practically nothing I eat. Plus we have three cats, and their food has to go on the food bill too, to be fair.

    Don’t forget that eating in requires at-will access to a working stove, and the gas and/or electricity to cook with. But some of my very favorite pots, pans, casseroles, dishes, and knives were Salvation Army and garage sale finds.

    It can be done, even with meat. One leg/thigh of chicken, boiled in a lot of water with carrots and onions and garlic and salt and pepper, then shredded into tiny bits and put back in the broth with a little flour, makes a good base for biscuit dumplings. I once fed eight people with a big pot of that stuff when I was poor and in college.

  24. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @speedwell: ConsumptionJunkie, I know you’re scared and feeling deprived and that’s one reason why you put food on the credit card. Having to take food stamps to the grocery store and suffering because you think people are pointing fingers at you is no fun either. If putting your food in the card is the only way you can feel like you have a surplus of something, I totally understand.

    Some of the commenters on here have never been cooped up with no money, little companionship, and little to occupy themselves with. A computer and Internet connection, when the cost is averaged out over the time you use it, is one of the lowest cost forms of entertainment and intellectual occupation going, and returns on investment if you can work from home at all. (But give up the overpriced TV and cable crap. This digital thing that is making everyone have to buy new TVs is a perfect time to tell the whole industry to take a walk.)

  25. iMe2 says:

    @speedwell: Talk about cutting to the heart of the matter, your posts are I think a perfect response to ConsumptionJunkie’s very vulnerable admission. Though I really really wish he/she would not use the credit card until they had a steady income stream that could support them, and cut back on spending habits (like a brand new computer – if it was purchased recently). There are tons of ways that we can all learn to save money and your posts provide some inspiration to be sure.

  26. missdona says:

    Anyone who is struggling for food (or anyone pinching pennies) should check out Angel Care Ministries. Once a month, it allows you to pick up a set menu of food from a local church. There are no qualifications, anyone can do it and you do not have to be a member of the church (or any church for that matter) to participate. They say it can feed a family of four for about a week or a Senior Citizen for a month. I don’t participate because I’m not a meat-eater, and a lot would go to waste.


    This is the menu for this month for my state. It cost $30.
    1.5 lb. / Bacon Wrapped Beef Filet (4 x 6 oz.)
    2.5 lb. / Breaded Chicken Breast Filets
    1.5 lb. / Bone-In Pork Steaks (4 x 6 oz.)
    28 oz. Salisbury Steak Dinner Entrée
    2.5 lb. Beef and Bean Burritos (10 x 4 oz.)
    2 lb. Popcorn Chicken
    9.5 oz. Stouffer’s Flat Bread Pizza
    16 oz. Cauliflower & Carrot Blend
    16 oz. Corn Niblets
    16 oz. Green Beans
    2 lb. Fresh Onions
    29 oz. Pears
    32 oz. Borden 2% Reduced Fat Shelf-Stable Milk
    9 oz. Breakfast Cereal
    8 oz. Corn Muffin Mix
    16 oz. Bean Soup Mix
    1 Dozen Eggs
    1 Dessert Item

    They also have different add-on boxes for $20, Grill, Steak or Chicken.

  27. missdona says:

    Sorry about the bad formatting.

  28. moore850 says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: You put a $1500 Macbook on a credit card while you’re on food stamps?

  29. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @missdona: Incredible. I do know some struggling people to whom this would be a major relief. Thanks for posting this.

    @iMe2: Hierarchy of needs, you know. Protection from hunger and protection from nakedness (shame) seem to be about equally compelling, all things considered, especially when you have a credit card singing “buy-now-pay-later” sweetly into your mind. My dad was unemployed for an extended period and ran up his credit card bills because he just could not bring himself to admit to his family and the people in his church that he was “one of those needy people we help.” Fortunately he was able to get a job and pay off his debt, but his lifestyle during the payoff period was meager indeed.

    You know… a handful of rice and beans tastes better when you are employed and making the choice to be frugal than it does when it is all you have and you don’t know where the next handful is coming from.

  30. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @moore850: Yeah, you bastards don’t get that people can’t work or communicate without a computer anymore, do you? Haven’t you ever heard of “false economy?” Do you also want him to sell his car for food money and then have no way to get to job interviews? This is the same mentality that makes it illegal to buy toilet paper and soap on food stamps. Jesus.

    Disabled and isolated people with computers are less disabled and isolated than they would be without them. I can’t blame him for buying the best computer he could while he still could. I would have done the same (except I would have been real stubborn about refusing to get food stamps; that’s just the way I am).

  31. katyggls says:

    Like ConsumptionJunkie, I too am unemployed and disabled and whenever I mention that online, one of the first questions I get is “why do you have internet?”. It’s obnoxious to assume that because someone is poor that they shouldn’t spend money on anything enjoyable. The internet is my one and only luxury. I don’t even have a TV. For me, the internet is a much better deal, since it provides entertainment, communication, and education at one low cost. I too have been considering going on food stamps though because I’m having trouble affording good food (as in fresh fruit and veggies). Even $50 a month would help considerably.

  32. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @katyggls: “Why do you have Internet?” “So I can search for work and keep in communication with employers.” That ought to shut them up.

  33. missdona says:

    @speedwell: Also, you (they) can order as many ‘boxes’ as you like. I’m glad you found it useful.

  34. S-the-K says:

    Sounds like the Imperial Federal government can stop paying farmers to keep food prices artificially high. Stop paying farmers to not farm. Stop paying farmers to not take products to market.

    We’ll save money on two fronts. We’ll cut expenses on keeping food prices artificially high (Dept. of Agriculture). We’ll cut expenses on making food more affordable (food stamps).

    Problem solved!

  35. burgundyyears says:

    @speedwell: Sorry, a brand new $1500 Macbook is firmly in the category of a luxury. Your rant about soap and whatnot is inaccurate. Nobody “needs” a Macbook nor can you possibly construe it as something you must have to function at a basic level.

  36. BlackBirdTA says:

    @missdona: Yes, several churches in my town have the Angel Food Ministry. You can also use Food Stamps there.

    A friend of mine who helps with the distribution at his church told me about this. I’ve tried it a couple of times in the past couple of years. Some of the food is pretty good, but some of the food is way over processed. I got some breaded chicken filets that the instructions said to fry. I just put them in the oven. When they were done, the cookie sheet was half full of grease. But other than that the vegetables are a good deal and the shelf stable milk can come in very handy.

  37. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @burgundyyears: So, what computer do you want a disabled person to get if they need one? Some off-brand piece of crap cobbled together by someone’s geeky kid brother?

    And I work in IT. I require a computer to function at a basic level. My fiance is a computer animator. He requires a computer to function at a basic level. Using a computer to find and hold jobs these days is a necessity for many people. Unless you think the disabled individuals should go get a job as a retail floorwalker or a manual laborer, that is, or unless you really think of them as human garbage who can’t be allowed to have the tools they need to function in a productive way, instead of moldering away on public assistance permanently.

    Christ, I’m a libertarian and I want to help people get off assistance. That requires allowing people to do what they need to do to get by, not grinding their faces into the humiliating welfare system. Grow a brain and a heart.

  38. burgundyyears says:

    @speedwell: Yeah, because a new computer or laptop can’t possibly cost less than $1500. Oh, but if ConsumptionJunkie would have to suffer a Dell – it just doesn’t get more off-brand than that!

    Your gratuitous slam on home-built PCs is especially heartening since I spent several years volunteering on saturdays for a group that accepted computer donations, built them up to spec, and redistributed them with training, free of charge, to those who needed/wanted a computer but could not afford to purchase one. I guess we should have bought everyone new powerbooks (it was the late 90’s) and just tossed all those “off-brand pieces of crap” in the landfill.

    Thanks for the ad hominem though – my issue was that a macbook is a luxury purchase. You can get nice, new computers with comparable performance and functionality for a lot less. It just seemed odd to me to put yourself $1500 in debt when you can’t even afford food. Nothing more, nothing less. But a few forum posts are enough for you to condemn me as both brainless and heartless. Charming.

  39. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @burgundyyears: If you had a brain, you’d know that frugal people, like people who depend on their computers for work, need to have quality equipment that is less likely to require them to incur expensive downtime and repair charges. New, name-brand equipment is less likely to cause problems. Less problems means the disabled person is less likely to be hassled by things you take for granted, such as getting out of the house to take the machine back to the tech who built it, a retailer, or a shipping location.

    Oh, and I’m sooo happy for you that you build good stable computers, mister magnanimous ubergeek. Why don’t you volunteer your services directly to the folks on this board who need them, if you are so bighearted and everything?

  40. Kajj says:

    @burgundyyears: Ok, so suppose CJ bought a Dell, the cheapest one they sell. Then it breaks and, surprise! Their customer service is a nightmare. What is the first thing you’re going to say when CJ writes Consumerist about it?
    “That’s what you get for buying a Dell.”

  41. burgundyyears says:

    @Kajj: Actually, speaking from experience, the business-level dell pc support (that doesn’t really cost any more than the consumer class support) isn’t that bad. And I’m not one to say “you shouldn’t have bought xxx.” This site seems to embrace gross stereotyping and overgeneralizations though.

    @speedwell: Sheesh, my point was not all computers under $1500 and not apple-branded are terrible and unreliable pieces of junk, and I still question spending $1500 you don’t have and will likely accrue tons of interest on for a premium piece of equipment. That’s it. And if you know someone who needs a PC, I’ve got a Pentium 4-era mini PC, free to good home. Or places like this can also help. Seriously though, what’s with the attitude? Did I run over your dog or something?

  42. Orv says:

    @burgundyyears: In my experience, if he bought a Dell laptop he’d be buying another one in two years when the warranty ended and it broke. The build quality of Dell laptops appears to be the worst in the industry.

  43. betatron says:

    @ConsumptionJunkie: If they’re available to you, you may find mexican and korean grocery stores helpful alternatives to your shopping. It’s been my experience that different kinds of stores have absolutely awesome prices on certain classes of stuff.

    Stores like Jewel/Albertson/Safeway whatever spend a lot of money to convince us they’re the best deal, but quite, they aren’t.

    At a Korean store, when they have them on sale, you can get a giant bag of dried shiitake mushrooms the size of a bedroom pillow for $18. If you bought that much at a regular Safeway store, you’d pay probably a couple hundred dollars. ditto various rices (and one can safely ignore the recent “bismati panic”.

    Of course, super deals on basic ingredients really work the best if you have good scratch cooking skills, something a lot of americans lack today. My advice on scratch cooking is: don’t let anyone tell you you need lots of kitchen gadgets to cook. Nor do you need a lot of ingredients.

    I commend to you (anyone following this thread) the videos of Julia Child or Jacques Pepin. They will show you how to make drop-dead delicious food with sparse and simple ingredients. Seriously — you’ll be amazed. It might even save you money.

    You can usually find nice DVDs of Jacques and Julia (together or seperate) at the library. Very Illuminating.

    BTW: rock on with your macbook pro, sez i, with mine!